South Africa: How Load Shedding Has Impacted Small Businesses

Photo: Eskom
Eskom's national control centre (file photo).

Small business owners in Braamfontein are concerned that they may have to close their businesses if rampant load shedding continues.

Speaking to News24 earlier this week, they said they could be faced with a situation in which they would have to cut jobs and ultimately close shop if there was no urgent intervention from Eskom and the government.

On Tuesday, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan shocked South Africans with the news that Eskom's rickety state was much worse than initially thought and that it was unclear when load shedding would stop.

Mary Balassis, who runs a store that sells leather goods, said she closed the store every time there was load shedding because she couldn't trade in the dark.

She added that it was expensive to buy a generator.

"I am renting this space. I don't have money to buy a generator and if I have to buy one, it is going to affect my budget severely because I don't have such money lying around. I am employing three people and if this load shedding continues, I will be forced to lay them off, which is not what I have planned for," she said.

Balassis added that she used a card machine because most of her clients didn't use cash.

"I can't sell anything using the speed point machine because it uses electricity. My shop remains dark inside during load shedding and customers will not be able to view what they intended to buy. I have no option but to keep my shop closed until lights are back. I am losing a lot of hours sitting in my shop doing nothing," she said.

Her neighbour, Ali Arslan, who runs an internet café where he sells and fixes laptops and cellphones, is also forced to close his business when the power is off.

He employs one person and said he lost a lot of income.

"Who will come here for service when it is dark?" he asked.

"Load shedding is quickly killing our businesses here. We are forced to close our shop because we need electricity to operate. We are pleading with government to come with a quick solution to stop load shedding. It is hampering my business. These are tough times for us as small business owners," he said.

Kagiso Kgengwe, who owns a beauty salon and specialises in hair and nails, echoed the sentiments of the other business owners.

"I need electricity to dry people's hair. I need electricity to dry nails after being polished. I need electricity to see what I am doing. I can't do anything in the dark. On Sunday, lights went off when I was busy with a client's nails, I had to go to a nearby filling station to plug my nail dryer and UV light to dry her nails.

"This is a problem. We are struggling and I am losing clients rapidly. People no longer visit my salon as they used to. They now go anywhere where they find electricity. Braamfontein never experienced such things before, but now it is worse. We are losing heavily," he said.

Kgengwe added that municipal by-laws didn't allow them to work on the street.

"How am I going to work on the street? My clients will never agree to be pampered on the street. Load shedding is killing us and if something is not done, we are going to be unemployed because even if I move to another place, load shedding is everywhere in South Africa," he said.

Kgengwe's neighbour, Abdul Rahman, bought a generator for his grocery store.

"I am selling almost every food item here, including fruits and vegetables. If I didn't buy a generator over the weekend, I could have lost a lot of money because of spoilt food items. Again, my shop needs to be open all the time because people need to eat. They don't have a specific time to eat.

"Again, if I didn't buy the generator, criminals were going to walk in and steal as it would be dark and I wouldn't have been able to see them," he said.

City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba, has begun formalising plans with key government departments and state-owned entities to ensure that disruptions to City services were minimised.

Mashaba said in a statement that it would be irresponsible for the City to have no comprehensive plan in terms of how to respond to current levels of load shedding, any escalation thereof and the worst-case scenario of a national blackout.

"The City of Johannesburg has a responsibility to ensure that its essential services to our residents are interrupted to the minimum possible extent," said Mashaba.

Source: News24

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